Drying Herbs and Vegetables

Drying Basil, Tomatoes, and Peppers

Nov 9, 2018
Dried Tomatoes

Dried tomatoes

Celeste Longacre

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Consider drying your herbs and late-harvest vegetables to keep them longer. Drying is one of the oldest forms of preservation in the world. Virtually all indigenous tribes used the technique as a way to preserve foods for colder or drier times.

Dry herbs the same way you dry flowers. Some herbs can be spread out in the sunshine but most require a drafty shade to maintain their color and nutrients.

  • Gather stems into small, loose bunches.
  • Secure the ends together with a rubber bands or twine. 
  • Hang upside down in a warm, dry, dark, well-ventilated place that’s out of direct sunlight.
  • Cover them with a paper bag to keep the dust off.
  • Herbs with smaller leaves, such as thyme, can be laid out on newspaper or on a rack to dry.
  • For best results herbs should be fully dried within two to three days.

If humidity makes air-drying impossible, dry them in a warm oven or use a food dehydrator.

Drying Basil

This year, I dried my basil in the oven. Mine has a pilot light which is ideal. If yours doesn’t have this option, the lowest setting (with the door slightly ajar) often works well.

It’s relatively thin and can easily be dried by spreading it out on a cookie sheet.

Once dried, I transfer it to glass jars. This basil can then be used in soups, salads, eggs or dips. It does discolor a bit, but it tastes just fine.

Y(ou can even give away dried herbs in glass jars for holiday gifts!)

Drying Tomatoes and Paprika Peppers

Tomatoes and paprika, however, really need a bit more power. I use an electric dehydrator for the vegetables.

With tomatoes, I like to start with a paste variety as there is less water in the flesh. San Marzanos are my favorites. I wash and dry the tomatoes, then cut them into slices. The thinner the slice the quicker they dry. However, I find that if I cut them too thin, they stick to the tray and become difficult to remove. Quarter-inch slices have worked best for me.

I lay them flat on the tray and put the dehydrator on 125 degrees. After a few hours, I lift them up so that they won’t stick and the next day, I turn them over. At the end of a few days, they are nice and dry and ready to use in recipes. I want them to be almost crispy so that I can grind them up and use them in dips.

Paprika needs to come from actual paprika peppers.

I get the plants from some local nurseries and put them in the ground when the danger of frost has passed. I have heard that they like sulphur so I usually place five or six matches in the ground with their roots. They enjoy a bit of support as well so I have some nice cages that I use to give it to them.

As the peppers mature, I cut them from the plants. I carefully wash and dry them and slice them into ribbons discarding the internal seeds (or feeding these bits to the chickens if you have some). These ribbons go onto the trays and I again dry them at about 125 degrees. It takes a few days and you want them to get completely brittle so you can grind them into powder.

This powder makes excellent gifts and is a great addition to quiches, deviled eggs and other egg dishes.

See more on oven-drying tomatoes.

Do you dry your herbs, vegetables, or fruit? Please share any comments or questions below!

About This Blog

Celeste Longacre has been growing virtually all of her family’s vegetables for the entire year for over 30 years. She cans, she freezes, she dries, she ferments & she root cellars. She also has chickens. Celeste has also enjoyed a longtime relationship with The Old Farmer’s Almanac as their astrologer and gardens by the Moon. Her new book, “Celeste’s Garden Delights,” is now available! Celeste Longacre does a lot of teaching out of her home and garden in the summer. Visit her web site at www.celestelongacre.com for details.

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Drying Fruits

I do not currently own a dehydrator but I was wondering how would I dry strawberries, blackberries, pink grapefruit and or tomatoes in the oven. I read that drying this way can still have liquid in them and therfore if you wanted to ground I to powder, it would not go well due to the fruit still being tacky or sticky. I also read freeze drying was better then oven drying but from what I read that will require dry ice to do properly, leaving fruit without liquid and being able to be ground into a dry powder. So can I dry those fruits mentioned earlier, in the oven to the point of being brittle and not tacky like mentioned in the article?

string beans(snaps)

String them and hang them to dry. They are called britches. I am told this is a method used in times past in the N.C. mountains.

Canning "soup mix"

I am searching for a recipe for the old fashioned "soup mix" that is made with tomatoes, corn, spices, etc. This is NOT a "dry" soup mix, but the one that our grandparents did in quart jars that we loved to just open and heat and eat during the cold winter months when we didn't want to wait for supper to be cooked. Thanks for any info you can give me.

Old Fashioned Canned Soup

12 large tomatoes, peeled, cored, chopped (you can use canned)
6 medium potatoes, peeled, cubed or 1 1⁄2 quarts potatoes
12 medium carrots or 1 1⁄2 quarts carrots
4 cups lima beans (canned or frozen)
4 cups corn, cut, uncooked or 9 ears corn
2 cups celery, cut in 1-inch slices (optional)
31/2 cups onions, chopped or 5 medium onions
)Optional) 6 garlic cloves, chopped
6 cups water
salt and pepper, to taste
Optional: 4 basil leaves, 1 bay leaf, 1/4 tsp mustard seeds,
Combine all the vegetables into a large pot. Add the water, boil 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. (I prefer sea salt and fresh ground black pepper).
Ladle hot soup into hot jars, leaving 1" headspace. Remove air bubbles with a knife. Adjust two piece caps.
Process pints 1 hour, quarts 1 hour and 15 minutes, at 10 pounds pressure in a pressure canner.
Yield: approx.14 pints or 7 quarts.

I have to dehumidify my

I have to dehumidify my basement, so I hang the drying herbs in the path of the dry air. They dry quickly, without too much heat. The dried items go into the (short)canning jars without much humidity and a light vacuum from the Foodsaver.

After washing and drying the

After washing and drying the racks between sessions, I lightly spray each one with Pam - no more sticking.

great article on

great article on preservation.
we're given wonderful fruits to save through the winter :-)

Thanks Bobster!

Thanks Bobster!

What is the best way to dry

What is the best way to dry Salad Burnett herb? I had dry some in the oven but I notice that they did not kept their fresh favor.

Hi Donna, I'm not aware of

Hi Donna,

I'm not aware of Salad Burnett herb. However, herbs do lose some of their flavor when dried.

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